Film Review: ‘The Theory of Everything’
What would you do if you were told you had two years left to live?
In Stephen Hawking’s case, get a doctorate in cosmology from the University of Cambridge, fall in love, get married, have kids, write several books, and become one of the most world-renowned physicists.
Working from the memoir “Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen” by Stephen’s first wife Jane, director James Marsh gives us a glimpse into a hitherto unknown private life overshadowed by scientific accomplishments.
The movie follows him through college, well into his difficult journey as a father, husband, and physicist who outlived his two-year remaining life expectancy with courage.
The story begins with Hawking as a sweet young man, having just met doe-eyed language student Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones) at a campus party. Shortly after they meet, he learns that he has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a motor neuron disease that slowly shuts down all bodily control. Eventually, even raising a spoon to his mouth would be impossible.
“Theory” is very much about Jane’s devotion to Stephen and the three children they would have together.
Redmayne, who broke out last year as a strong talent after his performance in Academy Award-winning “Les Misérables,” took on the incredible physical challenges of playing Stephen Hawking. Redmayne studied videos of Hawking, met ALS patients, and practiced imitating their disjointed walks, gestures, and slurred speech. His efforts gave his Hawking a great sense of authenticity, to the point that you forget you’re watching an actor, not the real man.
Jones is the perfect Jane Wilde. Loving, patient, and optimistic, Jane was just the person Hawking needed as his condition worsened. She was there every step of the way, supporting his pursuits of trying to find an equation for everything. Jones embodies Jane’s perseverance, and, when the pressures became too great, her frustrations and inner turmoil.
Cinematographer Benoît Delhomme beautifully captured shots of the Cambridge campus, along with brief shots of Hawking’s deteriorating body, from the drooping lips down to the twisting ankles. The film is complemented by a great soundtrack from Johann Johannsson.
Adequately paced and poised, “The Theory of Everything” is simple and bittersweet. It leaves out some of the more complicated, tabloid-worthy parts of Jane and Stephen’s life, but it remains an inspiring story of a man who defied his limits and accomplished great things, and the woman who made it possible.
4 stars out of 5